An article has been buzzing in the social media network; it’s from a business publication and says that creative writing is a super competitive field, number two in a list of ten. Poets, Lyricists, and Creative Writers ranked right under Choreographers. Who knew? I had no idea about the competitive level of the dance world. But as far the occupation of creative writing, the finding that it is so competitive is no-duh.
I do know that of all the creative writers, it is poets who bristle the most at being called competitive because such a nature is antithetical to a poetic nature. The actuality is that the competition in this field is fueled not the by the nature of the individual practitioner but the nature of the occupation itself: who doesn’t want to be a poet? We’re everywhere. As I stood on my deck today, looking out at the winter blue sky, a blue that is a warm backdrop in the winter white world, a blue against which the bare treetops look so stark and beautiful, so vulnerable and yearning, and I thought about being a poet: Best. Job. Ever.
I don’t know squat about O*NET OnLine (though its tagline says it’s a “A proud partner of the American job center network”) nor why this finding is getting so much play. I did notice that when you go to the site of origin and look at the chart for “Work Context—Level of Competition,” in which 0 is not at all competitive and 100 is extremely so, you see that other more surprising occupations are on this list. For instance, coming in at number 12 (with a decent rank of 84) is Orthodontists. Number 20 is Tapers. Wha? I had to look up this one to make sure it was what I thought it was. Yes, it is tapers of drywall. With a score of 80, 28th place belongs to Pest Control Workers. It surprised me that this work made the list until I thought more about it. I figured the competition was built into this career because this field had the opposite problem of poetry: a scant number of practitioners and a big market. I don’t know if I am correct though.
But back to me on the deck and the treetops reaching, reaching. There are so many poets I know who have levels of competition I don’t have to worry about, like getting an academic position, like being responsible to teach poetry to young people, like having to pay off student loans for an MFA. I feel for my fellow poets. I don’t have these worries but then of course I don’t have any academic cache either. But this suits me. And though it would be nice to be monetarily appreciated once in a while, I don’t make money off my poetry; this year I got a check for ten bucks.
As poets go, the ones I aspire to be like are poets of the people, (See how while on the deck, gazing at the trees, my thoughts are just as lofty?) which led me to think about Carl Sandburg, a Chicago poet who doesn’t always get his due (see Slice of Solace for his poem “At the Window”) and then my thoughts alighted once again on competition. It’s innate and ever present.
So while competition is a given, I want to make something else in my life a given too. That is contentment, a quality I am going to try actively cultivating this year. Not complacency, mind you. I’ll still write, I’ll still send in my submissions and receive my rejections. I’ll still strive to make the world better in my own little way. But I want to remember to be happy with what I have, to be grateful. Catastrophe, grief, loss, and as Carl Sandburg points out hunger, pain, want, shame, failure – they are all on our horizons, whether we’re heading to them or away from them or re-visiting them on a regular basis. I want to be content to find a little wandering star of love and let it guide me.
Thanks for everything.
Peace, love, and solace . . .